The Use of Face Masks and Respirators In The Context Of Covid-19

The Department of Health published this fact sheet by the Infection Control Expert Group on the 25th of May 2020. In this time of COVID-19, the fact sheet explains general considerations on the use of masks and respirators, evidence guiding recommendations for the use of masks or respirators in the context of COVID-19, and recommendations for the use of masks and respirators in health care in the context of COVID-19.

In Australia – at the time of writing – the routine wearing of masks is currently not recommended.

A mask is not a substitute for other precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  • staying at home when unwell, with even mild respiratory symptoms
    • especially if employed in a high-risk occupation e.g. health or aged care or in quarantine because of increased risk of developing COVID-19
    • a person who develops symptoms of acute respiratory infection should seek testing for COVID-19
  • physical distancing (staying >1.5 m away from others)
  • hand hygiene (and avoidance of touching potentially contaminated surfaces)
  • cough etiquette/respiratory hygiene.”

In a health care setting:

  • “Standard infection prevention and control precautions apply, in all health care settings. This includes risk assessment to determine whether personal protective equipment (PPE) such as a mask or respirator, is needed.
    • Risk assessment is based on the patient’s history and presentation, the type of interaction, likelihood of exposure to body fluids and whether a procedure is (or is likely to be) required.
    • Risk assessment also includes consideration of the rate of local community transmission or occurrence of local clusters of COVID-19.
  • Cough etiquette and respiratory hygiene should be practised in health care settings.
  • Physical distancing includes between health care workers and members of the public, other health care workers and patients (except during direct ‘hands-on’ clinical care) in wards, clinics and nonclinical areas (e.g. public spaces, cafeteria, meeting rooms, shared workspaces).
  • Health care workers caring for patients with COVID-19 (or any infectious disease) should be trained in correct use (choice, fitting, donning, doffing) of PPE, including masks and respirators, by an infection prevention and control professional or other suitably trained educator.”

To access the fact sheet click here>>